Updated: October 16, 2018 | Contains affiliate links

How to configure Google Photos and use it efficiently

Google Photos has become one of the most popular digital media sharing tool. In addition to sharing, Google Photos can backup your mobile phone photos and provides the strongest automatic organization and search capabilities of all the competition. However, is Google Photos right for you? And how do you get started with Google Photos?

What can Google Photos do for you?

First off, remember that Google Photos is a tool. And as such, it has specific purposes that it was built for. Like with any tool, if your expectations do not match the intent of the tool you will be frustrated and disappointed.

For example, Google Photos has some automatic organization by date, but if you are trying to use Google Photos to organize your photo folders, it will not work.

Google Photos is a great tool…but for the right tasks. So what can Google Photos help you with?

  1. Google Photos can store your photos in the cloud so they are accessible from all your devices. This means that once you upload your digital pictures to Google Photos, you can access them from your computers phones and tablets. This is pretty cool. However, any cloud storage offers this feature. And when it comes to storage space, Google Photos shines again because it offers unlimited space as long as you store compressed jpeg photos.
  2. Google Photos allows you to automatically store your mobile and desktop photos so you don’t have to worry about uploading them to the service. This feature is called automatic backup. Most cloud storage services offer this as well. Microsoft OneDrive, Apple iCloud and Yahoo!’s Flickr all after mobile media backup.
  3. Google Photos allows you to share the media content you have uploaded whether manually or automatically. This is also common.
  4. Google Photos allows you to group the uploaded photos into logical groups called albums. This his way you can share only certain groups of photos. This is very handy but common as well.
  5. Google Photos allows you to search by date, faces and objects in the pictures. This last feature is what differentiates Google Photos from any other cloud storage provider. Google’s powerful image analysis algorithm can recognize animals, beaches, sunsets, mountains, bridges, castles and a lot of other objects. This is simply amazing and very useful.

Google Photos search is amazing
How to configure Google Photos and use it efficiently 1

So, what do you want to use Google Photos for?

Determine what to do with Google Photos

With the risk of becoming annoying I will remind you again that Google Photos is just a tool that helps you achieve some of your goals for your digital media library.

Based on what Google Photos can do, what are your goals? This is a very important question you have to ask with any tool you are using including Google Photos.

What are you trying to achieve with Google Photos?

Maybe it is backing up your media collection in the cloud so you have an extra backup. Maybe it is to share your favorite photos or maybe it is both. Or you simply want to try it out and figure out what your goals are. Even though you don’t have an answer yet, asking this question is very important with any tool you are using.

For me, since I backup my entire computer on an inexpensive and reliable external hard drive and in the cloud with Backblaze, backing up my pictures is not one of my goals for Google Photos. I only use Google Photos only to share my favorite photos with family and friends.

So think about why you want to use Google Photos.

Set up your Google Drive account to see your Google Photos picture

How to configure Google Photos and use it efficiently 3The actual physical storage of your digital pictures in Google Photos is done using your Google Drive account, so there are a few useful Google Drive settings for actually seeing your Google Photos storage in Google Drive.

How to setup Google Photos with your Google Drive account
How to configure Google Photos and use it efficiently 5

Once you setup your Google Drive to store your photos, a new folder will appear inside your My Drive root folder. The folder is simply called “Google Photos”. That’s where all your Google Photos pictures are stored. In addition, all your pictures are further organized by year with all the photos taken during 2015 for example being grouped in the 2015 folder. This is pretty handy especially as a physical backup of your photos.

Read more about linking your Google Drive to Google Photos.

Enroll in my Independent Course and start organizing your digital photos now.
6 video modules - over 30 videos containing step-by-step instructions for Windows or Mac programs like Lightroom, ACDSee, Picasa and Photos.
All my e-Books for free - all my products are included.
Completely self-paced. Learn at your own pace and take as long as you want until you learn how to organize your photos. More info

Set up your automatic photo backup with Google Photos

If you determined to use Google Photos for backing up your smartphone photos (which I do NOT recommend), then just download and install the Google Photos app and turn the automatic backup on. It will work as expected…in most cases.  If you do not wish to backup your phone photos automatically (I recommend you do not backup automatically) then don’t turn it on.

Google Photos application backup settings
How to configure Google Photos and use it efficiently 7

On Apple’s iOS devices however, like my iPhone 6s, things are not as smooth. This is to be expected since Google Photos is not made by Apple. It turns out that the automatic backup doesn’t run unless you open the Google Photos app and keep it running.

Apple’s iOS operating system restricts background processes for any application not in the Apple eco-system. So if you close Google Photos on your iPhone, then the backup stops working.

Google Photos application backup settings
How to configure Google Photos and use it efficiently 9

One really important drawback of automatic backup of your mobile photos is having multiple copies of your pictures. This always results in duplicate pictures all over the place.

My basic rule for dealing with duplicate pictures is to always import only once from any device and place the photos on my main photo library device. In addition, once imported I always delete the pictures from that device.

This way there is only one copy of all my pictures on my desktop. All the other platforms, including Google Photos, are for sharing pictures. They don’t hold pictures that are not in my main library.

This is also the reason why I use Google Backup and Sync to synchronize selected photos on my Desktop with Google Photos. This way I configure Google Backup and Sync to upload only my EXPORT folder, so only the selected family pictures are actually uploaded to Google Photos for easy sharing. In addition, if anything happens to my Google Photos account, all the photos are safe on my Desktop and my external hard drive and my Backblaze cloud backup.

Share your digital pictures with Google Photos

My main goal for using Google Photos is to share my digital photos with friends and family. I also use its awesome search feature, face recognition and location mapping, but my main purpose is to share my favorite pictures.  I prefer Google Photos over Facebook because of the great control I have over what I share.

I only upload favorite pictures to Google Photos and I group them in albums. Then I create a shareable link that I send out only to the people I want to use it. This way I control exactly who sees my photos.

Another great way to share your pictures from Google Photos is to use the Chromecast stick to project them on a TV screen. This works great from any smartphone using the Chromecast app or Google Chrome web browser. We are really enjoying this feature.

How should you use Google Photos?

Well…it depends on what you want to accomplish. If you want a simple way to backup your mobile photos, then turn on automatic backup. You just need to deal with all these duplicate pictures all over the place. If sharing is your goals, Google Photos is as simple and powerful as they get…I love it! The bottom line is that you can start using Google Photos and then turn off features you do not use. All in all, Google Photos is my favorite application for sharing photos.

Essentials for organizing your digital photos

Here are the essential products and services I have come to rely on for many years to keep my media collection organized and safe. Even though these are affiliate links, I wholeheartedly recommend them.

Excellent Lightroom alternative. If you need a cheaper and simpler photo manager then ACDSee Photo Studio for Mac or ACDSee Photo Studio Professional for Windows is my preferred solution for organizing all my media. It has a very fast browser, great image editing and it's simple to use.

If you do a lot of image editing like I do, I recommend using Adobe Lightroom Classic CC via the annual Adobe Creative Cloud subscription. Lightroom has best photo editing capabilities even though it has a steeper learning curve. Adobe Lightroom is my favorite for image editing.

I recommend Backblaze Personal Cloud Backup for affordable & reliable unlimited cloud backup. I have been using Backblaze for backing up all pictures & videos for more than 5 years now. All my invaluable digital memories are safe and secure. This is the best solution especially if you have a large quantity of media files.

Use a reliable & affordable external hard drive for backing up everything on your computer. It is absolutely essential for keeping all your memories backed up and safe.

Start organizing now using detailed, step-by-step instructions and videos:
Personal Coaching (closed) Independent Course Private Lessons
Reference book Basics book


Read similar articles:


  1. Peter Malling

Leave a Reply